by ASJAD NAZIR
SONAM KAPOOR ON HOW HER NEW FILM PAD MAN WILL EDUCATE AND ENTERTAIN
A COLD London afternoon is suddenly warmed up with the bright smile and glowing personality of actress Sonam Kapoor.
Dressed in a designer outfit, she is in good spirits and looking forward to discussing her latest film Pad Man, which has been generating headlines around the world in the past couple of months.
The true-life story revolves around an impoverished man driven by the love for his wife to create a machine for making low-cost sanitary pads, which would subsequently change the lives of countless women.
Sonam stars opposite Akshay Kumar as the forward-thinking woman who helps the man realise his potential and become a voice for an important social cause.
Eastern Eye caught up with the award-winning actress in a plush hotel to talk about Pad Man, girl power, inspirations and more…
You became a symbol of girl power early on. Where did that fighting spirit come from?
I don’t think it was something that was cultivated. I think it was my upbringing, which has been about speaking up and being a certain way in terms of awareness. I was always aware there was no difference between my brother and I. Just because he is a boy or a man, it doesn’t make him better than me. The way we were bought up was just that, so I just basically voiced that I deserve anything that any man was getting. That was it.
Is it fair to say your empowered attitude has informed the professional choices from your films to fashion?
Yes, of course, it has because I enjoy working with like-minded people and kind of express myself through my fashion and films.
Your last film Neerja, which released January 2016, did really well. Why has it taken so long for your next movie to come out?
(Laughs) Actually I have shot four movies since then. So I have been working hard the last two years. Now I will have three releases back-to-back so that is how it has worked out.
For me, Neerja was your career-best performance; how much of a turning point was that film for you?
(Laughs) Thank you so much, Asjad. I hope every film for me is my career-best performance. I think it is very important to keep pushing yourself and doing the best you can do with every film.
How did you feel when Pad Man and its subject matter were presented to you?
It was such an amazing story about an extraordinary man. To be a part of that was important. Also to work with (director) Balki sir and Twinkle (Khanna) as a producer was just so compelling an idea that I just had to do it. I was even more fascinated that a mainstream Bollywood hero decided to play this role. So more than anything, I was really proud to be a part of this project.
I didn’t think audiences were ready for this project six months ago, but now I do after seeing the reaction to the promos. How do you feel?
Honestly, I don’t know if the audience is ever ready for anything. We need to stop underestimating them. I think my last film proved that. When we were making Neerja, people were like: ‘There are no songs, no dancing and there is Sonam Kapoor wearing just one outfit in a plane, will this film do well? What will it be and will it just be an arty film?’
There was all this uncertainty. It turned out to be one of the most commercially successful films of the year. Eventually, it was the true story of a girl who passes away. So the very fact that it hit those numbers says we shouldn’t underestimate audiences and think that they aren’t smart or intelligent enough to consume something that is relevant, but at the same time is entertaining.
The movie deals with the theme of menstruation. What about the male members of the audience?
Well the very fact that Akshay Kumar decided it was okay to wear a pink panty with a sanitary napkin in it should tell men that it’s okay and doesn’t make them any less of a man to watch a movie like this.
Pad Man is based on an amazing true-life tale and I’m sure most of the audience will hear it for the first time. How aware were you of the story when they brought it to you?
Well, several years ago a friend of mine, who is an Indian from Singapore, sent me the Ted Talks of this guy who is from India. It was amazing and I watched it in awe. You should watch it too.
I kind of went on about my life. I guess Twinkle didn’t after encountering the story and decided to make a film about him. She found the story and Balki sir wrote the script. Then it came back into my life.
Pad Man is about a man who designs a machine to create affordable sanitary pads to make the life of impoverished women easier. Where does your character fit into it?
You should watch the movie to find out. All I can say is Pad Man couldn’t be Pad Man without the character that I play in the film.
Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?
I think the last speech, which Akshay gives in New York, is amazing. Also when my character is distributing pads to women.
How was Akshay when he was making the film?
I haven’t worked with him in many years, but the kind of cinematic choices that he has been making, including with Pad Man, is just so empowering. He is a mainstream hero who can make a lot of money doing escapist action films, but he decides to choose films like this. It is very admirable I would say.
A lot of people feel Pad Man will entertain but also have a transformative effect. How are you hoping it makes a change?
Exactly that way! I hope there is a dialogue that gets started on this, and in fact it has already started even before the release of the film. At the same time, I hope people consume the film and get something out of it. It is going to be entertaining, but we should also know it is a story that will start a conversation and normalise menstruation in everyday life.
You inspire a lot of people, but what inspires you today?
Just the world in general inspires me. I am always a hopeful, optimistic person. When I see smiling happy faces, especially in India despite the circumstances that we face, it inspires me to not take my life for granted and keep doing what I do.
You have always been fierce, but what has kept you so grounded throughout your career?
I think it is about having the right people around you. Having sycophants and yes men around you is not healthy at all.
A wide array of interesting subjects are now being made in Indian cinema. Is this an exciting time for you as an actor?
Most definitely! I think the kind of roles that are being offered to me are fascinating and amazing. I hope that these kinds of films constantly get made.
You have more outfits than anyone; where do you keep them all?
The outfits are mostly sourced and loaned to me by designers. (Laughs) I usually send them away and make room for new ones.
You are seen as a female style icon, but what style tip would you give men?
I always judge men by their shoes. So wear the correct shows!
You have been realising all your dreams. Today. what is your greatest unfulfilled ambition?
My ambition is to constantly evolve as an artist and as a person.
What is the best advice anybody has gave you?
To be on time and always be nice!
What is the biggest thing you have learned from your legendary father Anil Kapoor?
That health is wealth. I swear to you that is what he says and believes. If you are healthy, you are happy and subsequently good at your job.
What advice would you give young girls?
Never feel that you are secondary to anybody. You are always as good as a man, be it your boyfriend, husband, brother, a boy in your school or college, a man at work or whoever. Maybe even better.
Your next home production Veere Di Wedding looks awesome; what can you tell us about it?
I can’t say much, but is it is releasing first week of June and is a great story about four fascinating people. It’s about amazing women and very funny.
What should we all go watch Pad Man?
Because it is an entertaining compelling story about a fascinating man who encountered something that everyone kind of considered a woman’s problem and made it his own.
Why do you love cinema?
I love cinema because it has the power to change the world.
- Pad Man is in cinemas now